Well—another Seattle first is in the books. Kevin’s first business trip. He’s in Los Angeles for the week, so Avery and I are on our own for a few days. In the evenings, I suppose that not much changes for Avery (aside from her missing out on the generally more hilarious and entertaining and handsome parent). Every night, she still dines in her high chair before a bath, some milk, and bedtime.
Once she’s down, though, the nights are pretty different for me. They’re more quiet and still, for one. At times, they can feel a bit empty and lonely, but I usually find a peaceful pleasure in them. I spend very little time alone these days, and it’s something that I miss.
Dinner is also different, and I try to find the silver lining there too. I migrate toward vegetables that I love, but that Kevin will only tolerate, and they typically wind up in a warm salad. The recipe tends goes something like this:
[insert vegetable], cooked simply + [insert grain of choice] +
baby greens + zippy dressing + feta.
It’s not rocket science, but it hits the spot every time. I sometimes wonder if, left to my own devices, I’d eat a variation of this meal every single night.
For the grain component, I most often go for quinoa, but farro is also in heavy rotation. Brown rice, barley, millet, or even pasta and the like would all stand in well, too. The dressing called for in my little equation is always the same—olive oil whisked into a coarse, grainy mustard that’s been thinned with some lemon juice or vinegar. For my tastes, the more pucker-y, the better. For the baby greens, I’ll toss in a handful of whatever I have on hand, letting the leaves wilt against the warmth of the just-cooked grains. You could use herbs instead of (or in addition to) baby greens, or heartier greens that have been sauteed, or you could skip the greens altogether. But I’m afraid that the feta is non-negotiable. It, too, will soften under the heat of the salad, just enough to lend a creamy cohesiveness to the whole thing, while also providing a salty tang.
The most variable component in this salad is the vegetable. My choice is usually guided by the season (this summer version was born during another one of Kevin’s business trips, and it’s a keeper), and this week’s version was no exception.
I had picked up a couple bunches of radishes at the market last Sunday—a mix of long and skinny ones with magenta midsections that fade into white ends, and tiny, jewel-colored ones, and the regular old red round ones. I halved most of the radishes (leaving the teeny ones whole, and quartering the big guys), and sliced a bundle of asparagus into small pieces, and roasted it all with olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes.
Under the blast of hot heat, the radishes’ harsh bite slips away and a faint sweetness replaces it. Meanwhile, the asparagus become nutty and crisped in spots. The result is wonderful as the final element in the equation. Tossed together, it was my ideal single gal meal.
Quinoa Salad with Roasted Radishes & Asparagus
This will make enough for dinner for one, with some leftovers for lunch the next day. When I ate the leftovers, I added a bit of snappy diced cucumber and I definitely appreciated the added crunch, so I’ve listed it below, as an optional element.
2 cups radishes, trimmed and halved (or whole, if tiny, or quartered, if large)
1 bundle asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
olive oil, to taste
salt, to taste
1/2 cup quinoa
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
juice of 1/2 lemon, plus additional wedges for serving
2 cups baby greens (such as baby arugula, spinach or kale)
1/2 cup chopped cucumber, optional
crumbled feta, to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the sliced radishes and asparagus on the prepared baking sheet; drizzle with some olive oil (about a tablespoon), and sprinkle on a couple pinches of salt and a big pinch of red pepper flakes. Toss to coat. Roast the vegetables for 10-15 minutes, until blistered and browned in spots. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine quinoa, 1 cup of water, and a healthy pinch of salt. Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce heat and simmer (with the lid on) until the liquid is absorbed—about 20 minutes. Set aside; keep covered.
Meanwhile, in the bottom of a large salad bowl, whisk the lemon juice into the mustard. Whisk in some olive oil (about a tablespoon). Add the baby greens, cucumber (optional), feta, roasted vegetables and cooked quinoa to the bowl with the dressing. Toss to combine. Serve, with lemon wedges (if desired).